Hollywood Stardom – The End: Stars, Genre and the Redefinition of Commercial Popularity in Conglomerate Hollywood

Paul McDonald (Kings College London)


Wednesday 15 November, 5pm – Keynes Lecture Theatre 5

Whatever happened to Hollywood film stardom? Throughout the 1990s, the top tier of Hollywood’s North American domestic box office was annually populated by hits fronted by major star names, mainly associated with action and, to a lesser extent, comedy. From the following decade onwards, however, the value of Hollywood stars diminished at the box office. Instead, animated and various forms of fantasy-inspired film series came to define the most commercially popular form of Hollywood film. This paper has two main purposes, one conceptual, the other historical. Initially the paper offers a critique of how neglect of the economic status of film has left film scholarship with unsatisfactory conceptualizations of genre and stardom. Departing from this tendency, the paper outlines a form of analysis aimed at situating generic formations and star identities in the commercial context of the film market. Secondly, the paper uses this approach to explore the historical transition that saw the waning of star value and the rise of animated and fantasy film series redefining commercial popularity for conglomerate Hollywood. Reflecting on this context, the paper concludes by outlining a series of ways in which stardom still plays a significant – although diminished – role in shaping commercial popularity.


Paul McDonald is Professor of Cultural and Creative Industries, and Vice Dean (People and Planning) for Arts at King’s College London. His work on stars includes Hollywood Stardom (2013) and The Star System: Hollywood’s Production of Popular Identities (2000). His book George Clooney and Modern Hollywood will be published next year in the British Film Institute’s film stars series. He is a co-editor of Hollywood and the Law (2015) and The Contemporary Hollywood Film Industry (2008), and of the International Screen Industries series from the British Film Institute (2003- ).